Fired Up: Artist Spotlight: Hard Candy Ceramics
Bang Candy creator turns passion for ceramics into second line of business
By Joe Morris
Sarah Souther may be in the candy business, but she doesn’t sugarcoat her entrepreneurial beginnings.
“I moved here 18 years ago, got a little drunk, came up with a crazy idea I followed through on and have been doing it ever since,” says the founder of the Bang Candy Company, a “sugar peddler specializing in whimsical confections” such as gourmet marshmallows, syrups and more that’s been drawing sweet-toothed admirers to Marathon Village to purchase treats — and see them made — since early 2012. Then a few years ago Souther discovered ceramics, fell in love with all things pottery and launched Hard Candy Ceramics even as she contemplates a return to her native Ireland in the not-too-distant future.
“I am still doing the candy, although I must admit I am so fed up with sugar,” says Souther, who hails from “a big, crumbling pile” in the middle of County Tipperary. “I am in the process of segueing out of the candy side, probably over the next year or so, so I can do more ceramic works and eventually go back to Ireland. The candy business will have a different person at the helm; I’m still figuring out what that will look like.”
Figuring out as she goes isn’t a new operational model for Souther, who freely admits that she never thought she’d launch one business, let alone two. Bang’s early days were as a farmer’s-market sort of gig, very part time, until she had a conversation with her friend Mike Wolfe, who was opening a store in Marathon Village to complement his American Pickers show.
“He said I should open up beside him,” she recalls. “I replied that I had no interest in owning a store. Then I looked at this incredible building, met the landlord and naively went in without considering a host of other costs and headaches associated with a retail business. Still, it’s been great. We’ve had a built-in clientele thanks to all the foot traffic and have been part of a great and growing community of entrepreneurs.”
Time for a throwdown
Then came ceramics. About five years ago, she opted to dabble in clay, kilns and all that goes with them through a class at Metro Parks’ Centennial Park Arts Center, and once again it was love.
“I became obsessed,” Souther says. “I did a basic pottery class, then moved on to Raku and hand-building classes with Tom Rice, an amazing person and instructor. I joined in with a group of brilliant women, and it’s all been so much fun.”
That led to renting space at Old School Farm Pottery, a big move and one that was immediately followed by the COVID-19 pandemic and global shutdowns. Undaunted, Souther created a studio in her Lobelville home and has “been busily making things” ever since. Hand-building, throwing, types of glazes and firing … she likes it all.
“I really like putting different styles together, changing the shape of things,” she says. “I am not into making dust collectors of any description. My items must function, so lots of lamps, jugs and bowls, interesting and weird items with shapes that inspire me.”
For now, she’s selling out of the Bang Candy space, as well as through an Instagram account and shows at such local spots as the Julia Martin Gallery and pop-up holiday fairs and other events.
“I do want to sell a few things, and I’ll keep right on experimenting to see what I end up with. Trouble is, I never write down my steps, so I tend to forget exactly how I created something I like.”
Will she take the business international once she’s back across the pond? Hard to say, as she’s not thought much beyond planning to take over “the family pile” and contemplate her next career from there. What’s more, even though she’s unwinding from the sugar biz, it’s never quite completely out of her life.
“I do still enjoy our CBD Dream Drops, which are a more recent development,” she says. “They are made with Delta 8 chocolate, so they can get you legally stoned in Tennessee. I have one every night before I go to bed and sleep like a baby.”